HB Tansu #2-Progress 8

Today was carcass glue-up day.  Always a little stressful, but getting less so every time I do it.  I started by addressing all of the small areas that I identified yesterday as needing work.  Once that was done, I gave the exterior panels one more round of sanding just to be sure.   From there I disassembled the carcass and stacked all of the parts in what I hoped would be a logical sequence of assembly.  Then it was slather on the hide glue and place the parts.  I apologize for the crappy photos.  Truth is, I’m actually surprised that I had the presence of mind to stop and take any photos at all.

I started withe the back frame assembly laying on the trestles.hbt2-18

Then installed the corner rails and the handle rails.  Followed by the exterior panels.hbt2-19

Then I installed all of the front/rear bearers and dust panels.hbt2-20

Then came the front panel assembly.  This ones tricky to do by myself.  There are a lot of bits that need to be guided into grooves.  Any one of which can stall the entire process until it’s sussed out.hbt2-23

Then I added the clamps to seat all of the parts.hbt2-22

Once I was satisfied that everything was seated and in its proper place, I added the wedges.



Now I just wait for the glue to set.  After that I’ll start the final cleanup of the carcass.

In reality, I could skip the glue and simply clamp the carcass tight, drive in the wedges and the assembly would be just fine.  The glue is not needed to hold the thing together, but I still feel better knowing it’s there.  Maybe on the next build I will be brave enough to skip the glue….maybe?

Greg Merritt


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HB Tansu#2-Progress 7

It’s been a rough week all around.  The server at work crashed while trying to install an upgrade to the accounting software.  Since I double as the IT department, the problem fell to me.  Unfortunately it was beyond my capabilities.  So I called in reinforcements.  Luckily my brother is very skilled in this type of work and, although he was unable to repair the server, he was able to do a fresh install and together we were able to get the office back up and running in just over 24hrs.  That’s a clean install on the server, all of the desktops setup to talk to the new server and we even managed to get the accounting software upgraded.  To top that off, the company I work for went from being individually owned and operated to being family operated.  I’ve been down this road before and it’s never been good.  I’ll have to let it play out but I think it’s time to move on.

hbt2-16Even with all the work related issues I was able to tie the handles for the HB Tansu plus a couple of knobs.  If you remember, I need to install the handles before I glue up the carcass due to an accessibility issue.  I managed to do the final cleanup of the handle rails and install the handles.  The securing knots are neatly tucked away in the counterbore.  From there I was stuck waiting on Woodcraft to call and tell me my plywood order was ready for pickup.  Which they said would be this past Friday.hbt2-17

Friday came and by 4pm still no phone call from Woodcraft telling me that me order was ready.  So I called them.  They informed me that the truck had not arrived yet and they had no idea where it was.  If it showed up, my order may be ready by Saturday.  They finally called about 11am this morning and said that my order was ready and I could pick it up at my convenience.  Nine days after placing my order I finally had the birch ply that I needed to continue building Hillbilly Tansu #2.

hbt2-14After a quick trip across town, I was back in my shop and ready to start cutting the panels. There is nothing special about fitting the panels.  Just measure the opening and cut the panel slightly smaller than that.  There are a couple of things to be aware of though.  First is that all of the panels edges should be dressed and lightly beveled.  This isn’t absolutely necessary but makes assembly go much easier since there aren’t any hard edges to hang up on anything.  The other thing I try to watch out for is that I keep the side panels cut from the same section of ply and that the grain is kept in alignment.  It’s easy to get one of the pieces flipped so each piece is carefully marked.  With the panels all cut, fitted and dressed, it was time for one final dry fit.  This is my last chance to find any areas that need any last minute touches before the final glue-up.  I found and marked a couple front to rear bearers that need some attention so that they are flush with the front and rear bearers.  That is where I stopped for today.  In the morning I’ll do the last touch ups and then it’s time for the marathon glue-up session.

Greg Merritt

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HB Tansu #2-Progress 6

hbt2-7Well all the fitting of the front to rear bearers is now completed.  They have all been planed to mate flush top and bottom with the front and rear bearers.  This little detail is important when it comes time to fit the drawers.  Any deviation between the bearers will cause all manner of difficulty in getting the drawers fitted and running smoothly.  The standard bearers all have grooves for receiving the dust panels.  The bearers that are located at the divider are a special case.  They need to be wider and also require a groove for receiving the divider panel.  I still need to draw up these details and will post them as soon as I can manage.

hbt2-12The handle rails are now ready for the installation of the handles.  I had to add a deep counterbore to the interior.  The handle rail on the right side of the tansu also will serve as the drawer guide for one of the small drawers.  This means that the interior securing knot of the handle must sit at least flush to the face of the handle rail.  I also realized that I will need to install the handles before I glue-up the carcass.  At least on the right side for sure.  The drawer compartment is pretty small and there is no way I will be able to get my big meaty pawls in there to tie the securing knot after assembly.  Luckily the tarred nylon twine that I use to make the handles will not be affected by any finish that I choose to use.  That’s right, I still haven’t made a firm decision on what finish to use.  Stop pressuring me about it. ;)

I had a few bits of birch ply and was able to fit the divider panel and a couple of the small dust panels.  With that done I’m at a standstill until Friday.  Here is where my rant about Woodcraft begins.


Not showing anything. Just I thought is was a cool shot.

Woodcraft is headquartered in my hometown and I have tried to support them when possible.  But they are making it difficult.  Over the years they have dropped most the hand tool line and have added more and more power tools.  OK, I can see why.  During the 1980’s, the Norm years, everybody wanted a table saw, radial arm saw, jointer ect.  Business decisions have to be made.  I can’t help but think they would be dominating now if they had stuck with their hand tool focus.  Then, just when it looked like they were getting back to hand tools, they parted ways with Lie-Nielsen and introduced the Chinese made Woodriver line of tools.  I have one of these planes.  It’s a good tool but if I buy again, it will be Lie-Nielsen.  Then they acquired one of my favorite stores, Japan Woodworker.  I’m not sure what they are doing, but they have managed to make a mess of the Japan Woodworker website.  They started with a well organized site and turned it into an unnavigable mess.  It is almost impossible to find anything now.  None of the Japanese tools are organized in a logical manner any longer.  They also changed all of the metric descriptions to imperial.  Anyone who uses Japanese tools knows that they are metric and search for tools based on the metric sizes.  I figure this will eventually cause them all sorts of issues, especially with chisels.  They are selling the chisels with listed imperial sizes.  If someone buys these thinking they are getting a 1/4″ chisel, for example, and receive a 6mm chisel, tempers will eventually flare.  Now I’m suffering from their latest blunder.  I need (5) pieces of birch ply.  I could have ordered online and had it delivered in a couple of days.  I’m 10 miles from the warehouse.  I didn’t because I wanted to make sure that I would have it for this weekend.  So Thursday, on my lunch hour, I made a trip over to the retail store to order the (5) pieces, they never have more than (2) sheets in the store.  The gentleman who waited on me was very pleasant and ensured me that I would be getting a call that I could pick it up the next day, Friday.  The store is only 4 miles from the warehouse.  So Friday came and went with no call from Woodcraft.  Saturday morning I called them.  The voice on the other end of the line says “no, the order did not arrive yesterday.”  Fine, when can I expect to pick up my order?  The voice says, “next Friday.”


Two days if ordered online and eight days if I order direct from the retail store that is 4 miles from the warehouse.

WOODCRAFT you have got to do BETTER if you want any more of my money!

So this week I’ll catch up on drawings and maybe make the handles and possibly a few knobs.  Plus find a new source for birch plywood.  Hida Tool will be getting my Japanese tool business for the foreseeable future,

Greg Merritt


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HB Tansu #2-Progress 5

hbt2-6I’ve just about fully recovered from my rough day in the shop on Saturday.  Over the past few evenings I’ve been able to cut, fit and groove the side bearers and the handle rails.  This completes the outer carcass framing and finally has this tansu to a stage where it’s starting to look like something.

I utilize compression fit joinery in these projects.  Essentially, this means that the end grain portions of the joints are very tight.  The long grain portions are fitted snug as per usual.  For the cherry, I cut the mortises 1mm shorter than I cut the tenons, .5mm on each end.  In the pine tansu I went 2mm shorter, but cherry doesn’t compress as much as pine.  COMPRESSION_JOINTOne of the tricks for fitting this type of joinery is to pre compress the tenon by tapping with a hammer.  This makes testing the fit easier.  The tenon will swell slightly when the glue is added and the tenon absorbs water from the glue.  This technique works great and results in tight fitting joints.  I picked this little tidbit up from Toshio Odate’s book.

The next stage is to size, fit and groove all of the internal front to rear bearers.  Nothing difficult, just repetitive.  All of the panels need to be fitted as well.  That is if I had any birch ply.  One of the lingering effects of my terrible Saturday was that I completely forgot to place an order for birch plywood.  I may run up to Woodcraft tomorrow after work and have the store order what I need.  Which seems a little silly since the shipping warehouse is about three miles from the store.  In the good old days I could just go directly to the warehouse and get anything I needed.  Sadly, those days are long gone.  So it will take two trips, one to place the order and one to pick it up.

So progress on HB Tabsu #2 is marching forward, just a little slower than I would like.  Maybe I can turn the tide once the carcass is glued up.

Greg Merritt

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Tied to the Whipping Post

To quote The Allman Brothers Band, “sometimes I feel like I’m tied to the whipping post”. I look forward to Saturdays.  Especially when I can spend the whole day in the shop.  Today was supposed to be one of those glorious days.  But it didn’t quite work out that way.

I started the day by doing some light cleanup on the rear frame assembly that was glued-up a couple of days ago.  I trimmed and flush planed the wedged tenons.  Then flushed the post faces to the rail faces.  They were pretty close to start with but offset just enough to feel with my finger.  I do this now because it’s much easier working on just the frame as opposed to the assembled carcass.  Once that was done, set my plane down and went to move the frame assembly from the bench to the floor.  I don’t know how, but this is where the day took a turn for the worse.


I’m not sure but that may be a tear drop on the vice chop.

I somehow managed  to knock my #4 plane to the floor, tote first.  You guessed it.  The tote broke into two pieces. So after the initial shock passed and the sick feeling in my stomach subsided, I set out to repair the damage. Luckily the break was clean. I simply added glue and clamped the tote to dry.

I moved on to cutting the tenons on the side rails. The side rails were cut to length earlier this week so it was just a matter of marking out the tenons and cutting the joints. As I was fitting the first tenon it caught on the lip of the mortise and split out a large, shallow piece of rail. It looked ugly but glued back in place nicely. I managed to cut and fit three additional tenons without incident. So I turned my attention to plowing the grooves in the two rails that I had just fitted.

The first three grooves went just fine. On the fourth groove I must have twisted the plane at the end of the stroke because I split off the outside corner of the groove. I glued that piece back in place and thru in the towel. Almost.


Not too bad of a repair and it should perform just fine.

I still had to finish the tote repair. A little file work, a little sanding and two coats of shellac. Good as used and ready to work. With that small success, I quickly locked the door to the shop and left before I destroyed anything else.

Greg Merritt

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HB Tansu #2-Progress 4


Rear Assembly. If you need to practice your plow skills, I can highly recommend this project.

An hour or so in the shop every evening this week had me ready for glue-up of the rear frame assembly.  I wish there was something of great interest about the work so far but I’ve got nothing.  The only thing of note is the several stopped grooves that have to be cut.  Two thirds of the 6mm wide grooves are done by hand with a chisel.  This was a wee bit tougher in the cherry than in the pine from last time.  I actually brought up a blister in the palm of my hand doing all these grooves.  It came damn close to feeling like work.  After the grooves I sized and sanded the panel.  Then cut several wedges in preparation for tonights glue-up.

So after work tonight I headed for the shop.  Loaded up Jerry Jeff Walker on my phone and set it shuffle.  I actually enjoyed this glue-up.  The hide glue performed as intended and gave me plenty of time to assemble all the parts.  I don’t use a mallet when assembling these frames except a few taps to verify the joints are seated.  Instead I use my clamps to slowly and steadily draw the joints together.  I find this method much easier.  Without all the banging, I can listen to the wood.  If there are any warning noises I hear them right away.  With the clamps in place, I drove all the wedges home.  Once the wedges are installed the assembly is effectively locked in place and I can remove the clamps.  Then I checked the assembly for square and verified that all of the bearers were square and seated.  All was as it should be.

So onward and upward.

Greg Merritt

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HB Tansu #2-Progress 3

hbt2-4I only managed to complete about 80% of what I had planned for.  I just couldn’t get a smooth flow in the shop this weekend.  Not sure why, but everything took longer than it should have.  The post tenons require a square mortise to receive the side rail tenons.  On the first HBT, the post were pine, I drilled out most of the waste with an auger bit and a brace.  The cherry wants to split too easily so the auger bit was out and I had to use a forstner bit.  Forstner bits work great in power drill but are slow going when used in a brace.  It does result in a very clean hole though.  Once most of the waste was drilled out, it was just a matter of squaring the holes with a chisel.

This version of the HB Tansu features an asymmetric drawer arrangement.  I worked out the joinery for the divider so that it can be marked out with the same marking gauge that I made for the other bearers.  It took a little tweaking to make it work, but I ended up with a workable arrangement.  I still need to congeal my notes and create a drawing that details the joinery.  Hopefully that will happen sometime this week.

I did the one thing that I always advise others not to do.  I got in a hurry!  In my haste to glue the front frame assembly I forgot to chop the mortises for the handle rails.  Not a deal breaker, but will require some bench gymnastics to chop them in the assembled frame.

So I did get the front frame glued-up and in the clamps.  I also managed to get hide glue up to my elbows and somehow in my beard.  Good thing hide glue will dissolve in hot water.  I had hoped to glue-up the rear frame as well.  I’m close, but came up short.  I still need to size, prep and fit the rear panel.  I’ll also need to do a final cleanup of all the parts.  Once those tasks are completed I’ll be ready to assemble the rear frame.

The weather is turning colder here.  We actually have frost advisories for the next few nights.  Since my shop isn’t heated, I’ll have to plan my glue-ups carefully and drag each freshly glued assembly into the house to cure.  That’s my normal winter procedure and is a pain in the butt.

This week I hope to glue-up the rear panel, fabricate the side and handle rails and fit all of the panels.  That list may be a bit ambitious but I’m going to give it a go.  If I pull it all off, I’ll be glueing the carcass up next weekend…maybe.

Greg Merritt

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